Ireland Stumbles


                                                             LIGHTS UP on Ireland & Sons, an antiquarian’s

                                                            shoppe out of a sketch by Gilroy or Rowlandson.


                                                            SAM IRELAND, 50ish dealer in antiquities, sits

                                                            behind a table, with his 19 year old son W.H.

                                                            standing silent beside him.


                                                            JORDIE stands fidgeting, auditioning his wares,

                                                            as it were. He is an ill-kempt looking man whose

                                                            main interest seems to be in securing a pint of ale

                                                            for the empty ale pot he holds. He attempts this by

                                                            an outpouring of amusing anecdotage, which

                                                            SAM notes, skeptically, in a pocket account book.



Nay, not just there in Stratford, but to this day

In all the roadside villages along the way

From Warwickshire to London, yea, the Bard

Of Avon, as they call him, was heard of –Nay,

Was known by name!— at every little courtyard inn,

For there was not a tavern even then

In any hamlet (pun intended, hehehe)

But that the tapster knew Bill Shakespeare’s name,

Long before he’d left for London to become

The Poet of the Age. So say they still in Stratford.


                                                            JORDIE pauses, then genuflects awkwardly.


I’ve heard it sworn myself, and will attest to it

Under witnesses, above my signature…


                                                            JORDIE puts the ale pot on the table, prentational. 


That this ale pot was his ale pot what wrote Lear,

And Hamlet, and the other plays he wrote.


                                                            A pause. SAM continues writing for a moment.

                                                            JORDIE clears his throat, indicates the empty

                                                            ale pot upon the table.


Can I get a pint, Gov?


                                                            SAM finishes his notes with a flourish, sets down

                                                            his notebook and smiles at JORDIE.



By all means, Jordie, you shall have an ale.


                                                            SAM addresses W.H., as if speaking to a servant.


(Go, Samuel! Fetch a drink for our good friend)


                                                            JORDIE gives the ale pot to W.H., but SAM

                                                            snatches it from W.H., and snaps at him.


Bring another ale pot.



Y-yes, F-f-father.


                                                            W.H. exits. SAM examines the ale pot.



This ale pot looks to be authentic. Kiln fired,

Of a type you’d find in Warwickshire.

But nay, I’d not part with tuppence for that tale

You and your various sources would vend

About the Bard of Avon in a drinking bout

Under a tree in Bidford Common.

crabbed from a bunch of drunkards just about

a half a hundred years after the fact.


                                                            SAM thumps the empty ale pot, listening.


There’s nothing in this. No novelty. It smacks

Of rheumy gossip, frankly. Rumor, stale,

Over-rehearsed, a shopworn tale.


                                                            SAM sets the ale pot down with a thunk.


In short, it’s second hand news.

Worth no more than a small handful of sous,

This relic of another era.


                                                            SAM rises, addressing a contrite JORDIE.


I don’t believe that Shakespeare drank

Immoderately. I don’t subscribe to the popular view

That artists must be dissolute.

I am myself a temperate man, and so

Ascribe success in business dealings to

Retaining a clear mind and good judgment.


                                                            W.H. returns with a full ale pot for JORDIE.



Ah! Thank ye kindly, Will Henry.



My son’s name is Samuel, Jordie.

Mind you don’t spill the ale, there, Sammy.


                                                            Sam turns his back on both the others.


You’ve other items, Jordie, or that’s it?


                                                            JORDIE looks at W.H., who nods at him.



Y-yes, J-j-jordie, there was something else?


                                                            JORDIE cagely draws out a document, as

                                                            W.H. shifts to stand outside his father’s eyeshot

                                                            to “conduct” JORDIE, even mouthing words

                                                            JORDIE hasn’t conned correctly.                                                     



I hesitate to show it to such eyes as yours,

As Ireland & Son—


                                                            W.H. desperately shakes his head: “NO!”



—It’s ‘Sons.’



Beg pardon: “Sons.”

…Are known as such a reputable house.



Get to the point, you avaricicious lout.


                                                            JORDIE, catching only an amiable tone and

                                                            missing SAM’s irony, looks confused.



I thank ye kindly for that, sir, I’m sure.

I’d not abuse your patronage with slurs

Upon the authenticity of such

As you’d be likely or disposed to purchase

From these, my humble hands.





                                                            SAM and JORDIE stare at W.H., chagrined

                                                            at getting so worked up. SAM sighs.



Even my half-wit son is bored with you.


                                                            JORDIE draws out an impressive sheaf of

                                                            manuscript pages, tied with string.



A manuscript, this scrap purports to be.

I’m wagering that it’s no forgery.


                                                            SAM gazes at the paper with rapt interest.


I picked it up in a bookstall near Saint Paul’s.

The paper, anyway, is older, you can tell.

The ink is brown, the hand’s an antique script.



The trade in antiquities and documents

Outstrips the Tulip Bubble of a hundred years ago.

(scoffs) What am I telling you two for?

You’ve no idea what I’m talking about.



Yes sir. The T-t-t-tulip B-b-b-b-b-b-b-bubble.

Inflated the price of b-b-bulbs in Amsterdam

In the late 1600s—



–Yes, yes, yes! I am

Acquainted with it. God, how you waste my time!

I’ll give you two quid for it, Jordan.



Aw, give old Jordie three.



Two and another pot of ale, and I’ll buy your ale pot.


                                                            JORDIE hesitates only a moment before

                                                            handing his ale pot to W.H., who steps in

                                                            on cue to take it and clapping him on

                                                            the back to cue his last line as both smile.



Sold! And if you like that, there’s more of that lot.


                                                            BLACKOUT. A bit of Handel, then LIGHTS UP

                                                            on SAM seated, perusing a pile of documents.



I tell you, Sam, these Shakespeare manuscripts

Are the best blessing that’s e’err shower’d upon our house.

Can you believe the Good Lord’s bounty?



B-b-b-bless me! G-g-g-good Lord, n-n-n-o!



First just a few receipts and oddiments,

A mortgage deed with Heminges name on it,

Then a letter from Southampton! List!


                                                            SAM reads from a manuscript, pronouncing

                                                            the orthographics in what he takes to be

                                                            antique pronunciation. He’s also squinting

                                                            to read through bad glasses.


Doe notte esteeme me a sluggarde nor tardye for thus havyinge delayed

to answerre or rather toe thank you for youre greate Bountye…

[G]ratitude is alle I have toe utter and that is tooe greate ande tooe

sublyme a feeling for poore mortalls toe expresse


                                                            SAM struggles reading. W.H. takes the paper

                                                            from SAM, which SAM scoffs at but allows,

                                                            as his eyes are failing him.



Here, F-f-f-father, let m-m-me.


                                                            W.H. reads, his stutter disappearing, with

                                                            a period feel and fluency that escaped

                                                            his father’s reading.


O my Lord itte is a Budde which Bllossommes Bllooms butte never dyes.

…as I have beene thye Freynde soe will I continue aughte thatte I canne

doe forre thee praye commande me ande you shalle fynde mee… Yours…


                                                            SAM continues through his treasures, with

                                                            W.H. helpfully handing each to him in turn.



The profession of his Protestant faith!



P-p-p-poo to those who claim our Shakespeare P-p-p-papist.



A letter from Queen Elizabeth herself!



You always say “A good man will find favor.”



A wry self-portrait.



“Wymsycalle conceyte.”



A verse addressed unto his future wife, //Anne Hathaway.//



//“Ann Hatherrewaye,”// yes. Complete with a lock of her hair.



Books from the bard’s own library.



With his marginal notes.



A sheaf of “Hamblette” down in manuscript.



//The text of Lear.//



//The text of Lear.//



Yes, sir.


                                                            A pause. SAM searches before him for

                                                            the documents as W.H. provides them.



And then the unknown works I’d always suspected. Henry Two, Rowena

and Vortigern.



Is that your favorite? Vortigern?


                                                            SAM sighs deeply, quite contented.



They’re all my favorite, William.



Sir? You called me “William.”



Did I?



Yes sir.



The other Samuel died on me.



Well… yes, sir.



I don’t have a favorite, Samuel.


                                                            A spell is broken. W.H. tries to hold onto it.






But I’m happy.


                                                            SAM smiles. So W.H. smiles, wanly. Music of

                                                            Handel. BLACKOUT.


                                                            LIGHTS UP on SAMUEL, completely blind, sickly,

                                                            reedy voiced, coughing, clutching a cane and some

                                                            documents rolled in his withered fists, attended by

                                                            W.H. as the two confront poor JORDIE, called to

                                                            account for passing on the forged documents.



I don’t understand it. The Duke of Leicester’s signature and seal are found upon

the document, and yet the damned thing’s dated 1590.



That’s right, sir.



He died in 1588!



Could be the Duke post-dated it?


                                                            SAM, in a blind rage, swats at JORDIE with the

                                                            documents, but catches W.H. in the face, then

                                                            tosses it aside and blindly searches for another

                                                            document on the table, which W.H. swiftly puts

                                                            under his father’s grasping hand.



References to the Globe Theatre



That’s Shakespeare’s theatre, innit!



Before it was built! This Heminges signature looks nothing like authenticated Heminges autographs. Or so I’m told.



A m-matter of op-p-pinion, surely.



Shut up, son. Boswell himself had passed on this. The poet laureate.

The College of Heralds. The Duke of Clarence.



Well, then.



But they’re not right! Not right! Wrong hand and orthography, wrong history




That don’t count.


                                                            SAM rises in a rage, blind as he is, to whip

                                                            JORDIE with the paper, driving him from the room.



And now I find myself mocked? Me! A scholar!

Mocked from the pages of volumes by Malone!

Mocked from stage by Kemble at Drury Lane!

My discoveries called forgeries, crimes,

The grossest of flimsy impostures!



I got a lead on poxy skeleton, the Duke of Gloucester’s!

Marlowe’s Coronor’s Report, a portrait dated

Armada year that may be Shakespeare’s!



Get out, get out! It’s killing me, you fool!


                                                            JORDIE bows and hastens away, followed by                                                                     

                                                           W.H., who sees him out. SAM collapses, weeping.

                                                            After a moment. W.H. returns and kneels at his

                                                            blind father’s feet.



F-f-f-father… f-father… It was m-m-me.



How now?



Sir, it was m-m-me. The f-forgeries. I wanted so to p-p-please you.


                                                            SAM takes this in, nodding, then smiling.



No. Oh Lord, you are a brave lad for the trying,

And well I love you for that heart would bleed for me.

But well I know, my son, you’ve not the head for this.

No, you’re not nearly clever enough to have freighted

so much mischief. I thank ye, though.



I, s-s-sir, your son, AM that p-p-person!


                                                            SAM feels his son’s face gently, reading his tears.



No. I won’t believe it. What is it Vortingen says?


            Make me forget the place by blood I hold,

            And break the tie twixt father and his child?


No. You may be a dull boy. But you are my son. You would not wound me so.



                                                            The two sit in silence for a moment, the elder man

                                                            striving not to weep, keep his dignity; the younger,

                                                            left with nothing else to comfort him, free to do so.


In Ecclestiastic Latin, the word is scandulum :

“that on which one trips, cause of offense”

In Greek, it’s skándalon, “A trap” is more the sense.

“A moral stumbling.” “The thing that causes one to sin.”


            Woe to the world for things that cause people to stumble!

            Scandals must come, but woe to those through whom they come!

Matthew 18:7 (or is it Luke 17:1?)


“Discredit to one’s reputation” that’s what brings in

the shame. The public disclosure of one’s crime. Or sin.


                                                            A pause.


I don’t know what I did.


                                                            A pause.


I did not think myself guilty of the sin of Pride.

But Sam, if only I had heeded your advice,

And not have published.



Indeed, sir.



It’s just so hard sometimes, to know where one has stumbled.


                                                            W.H. takes this in, nodding, as

                                                            LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.


                                                            END OF PLAY.